Indian national wrestling champion and current ONE atomweight contender Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat is rapidly advancing her mixed martial arts skills on a daily basis. According to the 26-year-old former Commonwealth Wrestling Championships Gold Medalist, she isn’t far from realizing her dream of taking a world championship back home to India.
“The transition was smooth as my wrestling skills helped me a lot in MMA. I am trying to improve everyday. My favorite technique is the takedown, and it’s also my trademark wrestling move. On the ground, I have to use a mix of wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu,” said Phogat.
“I am not far from my dream of bagging the world championship title for India in MMA because I have been working hard for a long time now.”
Phogat is currently one of the top female atomweights in ONE Championship. The promotion recently announced a ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix to determine the rightful number one contender to Angela Lee’s throne, after the latter announced her pregnancy a couple of weeks ago.
Phogat is hoping to appear as one of eight women competing in the tournament. If she wins, it will bring her one step closer to achieving her ultimate goal.
“ONE Championship has also announced an Atomweight Grand Prix tournament next year, which will feature eight of the top atomweights. My target is to get selected for that tournament, although my first focus is my upcoming match,” said Phogat.
“One of the reasons I want to win this world championship is to popularize MMA in India and give it the recognition that it deserves. India is not short on talent. I just want to be an inspiration so that others approach MMA more seriously. I want to induce conversations around the sport in the country. Besides, making India proud has always been my first and most important goal. My father instilled in me the sense of pride to represent my country.”
Phogat is scheduled to return to action this Friday night against Cambodian Kun Khmer World Champion Nou Srey Pov, a dangerous striking challenge for the wrestling ace. The two women will square off at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore on 30 October.
Phogat has grown more confident in her all-around abilities each and everyday, despite the specific hurdles introduced by Covid-19. She maintains she is ready to test out her newfound striking skills in the Circle.
“Initially during the lockdown, we were training and exercising at home. A few weeks back when Singapore reopened, we started training in the gym again. It was good to meet everyone after a few months. Hoping for life to be back to complete normal,” said Phogat.
“My training was obviously impacted, especially for me, MMA is a new sport. So it has been a challenging transition. I am also living in a new country, Singapore, all by myself. So it has definitely been hard because the game is new and the country is new. Also, I don’t have my sisters around or my father to take advice from. However, during the lockdown, when training was halted because wrestling and grappling are contact sports, the coaches helped me by making training videos.”
Phogat is beaming with confidence heading into her next matchup, and believes she can make a huge statement with a resounding victory. She wants to prove that Indian athletes can truly hang with the best of them, and wants to bring pride and glory to her home country.
“My opponent is a good fighter and I have studied her strengths and weaknesses. She is an experienced champion and it will be a tough and interesting fight between the both of us. I am ready to give it my best,” said Phogat.
“Everything has slowly become better now because the lockdown has eased considerably in Singapore and now I am working out and training at the gym. I have been working on improving my striking technique. I want to show the world that we Indians are all-rounders, on or off the field!”